Jack B. Johnson was one happy fella at his inaugural bash Monday night.
And why wouldn't he be?
Everyone wanted his ear -- or at least his hand -- at the black-tie party at Upper Marlboro's Show Place Arena.
There was Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D) and National Harbor developer Milton Peterson, former University of Maryland basketball star Buck Williams and Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-4th District).
And there was Johnson, clad in a custom-made tux, plodding his way through the thicket of dark suits and velvety evening gowns, hugging friends, supporters and, yes, even a reporter.
"It's a new day," exalted county police detective Keith Washington, a Johnson loyalist, standing in the middle of the swirl.
A host of powerful businessmen shelled out substantial contributions for the inaugural, including Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and developer David Cordish, who each gave $25,000 and who served as the event's co-chairs.
The big donors also included the Michaels Cos. ($5,000), whose owners actively opposed Johnson's candidacy during the Democratic primary.
Johnson's whirlwind of a day began with the 11 a.m. swearing-in at the arena. Before the ceremony started, he mingled backstage with a crowd that included departing county executive Wayne K. Curry, former state senator Tommie Broadwater Jr. and Patrick Murphy, the former New York City police commissioner who is to review the county's police force.
Edgar Silver, a retired Baltimore City Circuit Court judge who administered the oath of office, called Johnson a true product of the grass-roots community. "He won without the bosses. He really came from the people," Silver said.
After the ceremony and a reception, a police escort led Johnson to his new office at the County Administrative Building, where he held a get-to-know-you cabinet meeting attended by agency heads and a handful of his loyalists, including Jacqueline Brown, his choice for chief administrative officer, and former state delegate Michael Arrington, who will serve as his Annapolis lobbyist.
The Curry holdovers quickly learned that their new boss means business. Those who didn't arrive on time for the 3 p.m. meeting were greeted at the door by two police officers who turned them away.
The message: Be on time.
There were other formal signs of change that were equally hard to miss. In the building's lobby, the directory that featured Curry's name plate for eight years had been replaced by one that read Jack B. Johnson.
Council Selects Leaders At their first public meeting this week, the newly elected County Council chose Peter A. Shapiro (D-Brentwood) to serve another year as chairman. The lawmakers also elected council member Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills) as vice chairman.
The unanimous vote was a formality. The lawmakers hashed out the leadership posts at a private meeting last month.
Shapiro, 40, who was elected to the council in 1998, will represent the council in meetings with Johnson, and will have the power to set the legislative agenda and designate chairmen for various committees.
Knotts, 50, won a special election in May to fill the seat vacated when councilman Isaac J. Gourdine died in an automobile accident on the Capitol Beltway.
Gourdine's passenger that day was Marilynn Bland, who survived the accident. Bland was part of the Board of Education that was abolished this year by the state legislature. Last month she won election to the council, representing the District 9 and was sworn in this week.
At the council's first session, Bland told her colleagues: "Thank God I have survived, I will survive -- I am more convinced than ever that I have a mission. I have released and let go of all past hurts, misunderstandings and grudges, because I am truly blessed."
Bland also made her first hire: Wesley Gourdine, her former boss's brother, who will serve as chief of staff.
The other members of the all-Democratic council are: Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Bowie), David Harrington (D-Bladensburg), Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) and Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant), Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel) and Thomas R. Hendershot (D-New Carrollton).
Real Job Security
Perhaps the nicest thing about leaving the County Council is that you can always come back.
Case in point: Joyce Sweeney, who retired in the spring as the council's chief clerk. Since mid-summer, Sweeney has been on the county payroll at $50 an hour helping the council with transition issues and events.
Those events, council spokeswoman Karen Campbell said, include: the swearing-in of the new members, inaugural events and "farewell activities." She also helped coordinate the council's participation in the Maryland Association of Counties Convention and the Maryland Municipal League Convention.
Shapiro said Sweeney's help was needed because the council has never been through a transition of this magnitude.
"This is a one-time shot," he said.